Six Traps Awaiting You at the Airport — and How to Avoid Them?

A A fter looking over the six traps awaiting you at the airport as written in this article, I have concluded that the article — which claims that “today’s crowded airports are full of ‘gotchas’” — was written for infrequent travelers and not the frequent flier or road warrior.

Still, I thought I would comment on what Rick Seaney — who is the chief executive officer of FareCompare — wrote for the Good Morning America television show and Yahoo! News.

Six Traps Awaiting You at the Airport — and How to Avoid Them?

You could “take a look, then set your alarm a little early on departure day”; but I offer some viable alternatives, comments and opinions with each item on the list.

1. The Parking Trap 

“If you drive, you have two choices: Park nearby or park far away but no matter how you slice it, you’re going to pay a lot.”

Although Seaney advises to leave the car at home and “compare prices with Uber, Lyft, even the local taxi service and you could save big” and “to do a swap with friends; play airport chauffeur for them when they go away if they’ll do the same for you”, he left out two very important options which could save you even more money.

One is that if you are fortunate to use an airport which has access to public transportation — such as Atlanta, Boston and Washington as only three examples — take the subway, train or bus. That is your least expensive alternative — and if you travel during rush hour, you could even save time.

Another viable option to consider is simply using an even less-expensive alternative: parking your vehicle in the parking lot of a hotel property — with permission, of course. Think about it: there are usually parking spaces at hotel properties near airports which are unused for the entire night — and most airport hotels already operate a shuttle service to the airport anyway. I impart my personal experience in this article, which includes a partial list of companies which offer this alternative parking service.

Other than the sunk costs, the only extra cost to the hotel is the miniscule amount of fuel caused by your extra weight to transport you to the airport in the airport shuttle of the hotel, which is already going to the airport anyway with regularity.

What you might expect to be inherent with airport parking could include:

  • Low cost
  • Convenient location
  • Secure well-lit area to park your vehicle
  • Dependable shuttle service
  • Service free of hassles

2. The Security Trap

“Most travelers who get to the airport an hour before takeoff this summer may be in for a nasty surprise thanks to crazier-than-ever lines at security”, wrote Seaney. “Reports from Newark’s busy hub showed that hundreds of people missed flights in December alone because of continued Transportation Security Administration staffing shortages, and things are not getting better.”

Unfortunately, there is not much else you can do other than show up two hours — or more — ahead of departure. Sure, you could sign up for the PreCheck program offered by the Transporatation Security Administration; and if you fly internationally, you could sign up for Global Entry which includes PreCheck. “It only takes a minute and it’s cheap. Yes, an in-person interview is required, but you’ll find that a lot less painful than standing in line for two hours this summer.”

Sorry, Rick; but I do not believe in paying for a program which used to be offered free of charge — let alone volunteer to go out of my way to offer my personal information in an interview in person with agents of the federal government. That is simply ridiculous. Travelers already pay taxes as part of the airfare we pay for airport security. We should not have to pay again for expedited access which l cannot help but sense that it is a form of legalized coercion or extortion.

I have a better idea — something which I just did myself this past weekend: drive. If airlines, airports and the federal government do not care about how long their customers wait in lines at the security checkpoints — causing passengers to miss their flights after waiting for hours in line just to get to the gate where their aircraft is scheduled to depart — then why should I waste more of my valuable time at an airport?

Although fuel prices have increased significantly in recent months, gasoline is still relatively inexpensive. I do not have to pass through a security checkpoint. I can come and go as I please. Other than the available physical space inside of the vehicle, there are no limits on how much — or what type of — baggage I can carry. I pay virtually nothing extra if anyone wants to join me on the trip.

When arriving at the airport, waiting in long lines to get through an airport security checkpoint, waiting for departure, and departing from the arrival airport takes hours, driving — or buses or trains — suddenly become a more attractive yet typically less expensive option.

3. The Banned Item Trap

“Remember, no liquids in containers bigger than 3.4 ounces and that goes for liquid-ish items like jams and jellies and even peanut butter.”

There is not much you can do to avoid this trap either other than being prepared if you are a passenger of an airline; but to reiterate: the option of driving a vehicle — if viable — allows you to take whatever baggage or items you want, whenever and wherever you want.

Buses and trains are obviously more stringent with more restrictions — but those options are still nowhere near as limiting as being a passenger of an airline.

4. The Delay Trap

“Yes, indeed, bad weather happens and not much can be done about it”, advised Seaney, who did not tell you that even when the weather is perfect, you could still experience delays. All it takes is a major thunderstorm in Nashville to possibly affect flights between New York and Miami — either due to alternate flight routes; or cancellations, aircraft changes, flight crew shuffling and rescheduling by an airline which could potentially have a domino effect throughout the system.

“Be patient, be polite, and be first — first in line at the airport, first in line on the phone to try to get first choice of any alternatives.” That is excellent advice by Seaney; although I would add that you take advantage of social media alternatives of communications offered by many airlines during delays — especially if they are expected to be significant.

5. The Electronic Death Trap

“Phones die. They usually do it at the most inconvenient times, too, like just as you’re about to produce your on-the-phone boarding pass.”

Yes, you should be sure that your portable electronic device is as fully charged as possible prior to your traveling; and you should keep a charger with you at all times and print your boarding pass at home or at the airport kiosk.

I would go one step further and print out any important information you might need in case there is no Wi-Fi access to the Internet or a power failure. You never know when a “curve ball” might be thrown your way…

…and I personally never understood the preference of using a portable electronic device as a boarding pass rather than a traditional paper version, the latter of which can be used as physical evidence that you were indeed a passenger on a flight should your frequent flier loyalty program account not be credited with the proper amount of miles or points.

6. The Overstuffed Bag Trap

I only have one thing to say pertaining to this “trap” — which I always do myself and have said multiple times in the past:

Pack light.

Problem solved. Trap avoided.

Summary

Passengers should not be unnecessarily inconvenienced when traveling; and I believe that there is vast room for improvement to mitigate — and even eliminate — some of those aforementioned “traps” about which Seaney wrote. For example, the restriction on liquids was created as a knee-jerk response to some idiot who wanted to create an explosive aboard an airplane by mixing volatile liquids together — and I not only believe that this restriction should be eliminated; but it never should have been implemented in the first place. I believe that all the restriction on liquids generally does is punish innocent passengers with no real measure of security — but I digress.

The problem with the original article is that while it brings out awareness of the “traps” which await you at the airport, you most likely knew about them anyway — and there was no real advice given for some of those “traps” other than to bite your lip and bear it.

That “traps” even exist in the first place is unfortunate, as the ability to travel as freely as possible is supposed to be one of the hallmarks of the United States. It is a shame that the actions of a handful of terrorists combined with government bureaucracy created such a restrictive system of travel via airplane for everyone else in the first place.

I also want to disclaim that the products shown in the photograph at the top of this article are not mine; and I promised that I would not reveal the identity of the person who so graciously lent them to me to use for this article…

…oh — and by the way, Rick Seaney: I really miss that special tool developed for members of FlyerTalk when FareCompare was first created. Is there any chance of ever bringing it back?

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

7 thoughts on “Six Traps Awaiting You at the Airport — and How to Avoid Them?”

  1. R says:

    ‘Sorry, Rick; but I do not believe in paying for a program which used to be offered free of charge — let alone volunteer to go out of my way to offer my personal information in an interview in person with agents of the federal government. That is simply ridiculous. Travelers already pay taxes as part of the airfare we pay for airport security. We should not have to pay again for expedited access which l cannot help but sense that it is a form of legalized coercion or extortion.’

    you would rather drive than pay 100 bucks for a program which gives you expedited access for five years? Global entry is simply awesome… not having to deal with a surly CBP agent? That is a win! (And you can get even that 100 bucks refunded from so many different credit cards.)

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Electronic toll roads are also simply awesome to some people, R — even when they are erected on highways which were once free of charge to use. Just drive past the gantry without stopping. No fumbling for change. No receipts about which to worry.

      With both electronic toll roads and Global Entry, it is not simply about the cost. There are a number of other reasons why I abhor and avoid them…

  2. Garrett says:

    The Global Entry part seems like you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face. I can kind of understand the frustration, but at the end of the day you’re the one wasting your own time.

  3. Samar Misra says:

    I had an urgent question.

    I live in Alabama and my flight from Atlanta, GA to abroad is Nov.26th, 2017 and I return to Atlanta Feb 06th, 2018. My place in Alabama from AtL is 3.5 hour drive. I will gone for two full months

    Originally, I was planning to leave my vehicle on the street side in front of my friend’s house in ATL while away and take lyft or uber to the airport.

    Now, if I am unable to leave my vehicle at a friend’s place then what other alternative do I have where it is free for two months or just pay a small fee like $15?

    Thanks!

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      An article on which I planned on writing is about transporting the vehicles of other people, Samar Misra; but I have not gathered enough information yet. My initial thought is for you to transport someone else’s vehicle from Alabama to Atlanta one way prior to your departure; and then transport someone else’s vehicle from Atlanta to Alabama one way after you return.

      Here are two companies which offer this type of service; and there may be more companies:

      http://autodriveaway.com/about-us/drivers/
      http://www.hittheroad.ca

      Here are some companies where you can share rides with others for less expensive transportation:

      https://www.shareyourride.net/carpool/USA/
      https://openride.co
      https://www.carpoolworld.com/carpool_list_cities.html?country_code=USA,US&ordered_by=popularity&form_language=EN
      https://www.ridesharing.com
      https://www.erideshare.com
      https://www.zimride.com

      Again, I have no experience nor enough information about these services to recommend them.

      If you decide to go the traditional rental car route, two one-way rentals could cost you $110.00 in total; but try AutoSlash for less expensive car rentals:

      http://www.autoslash.com

      Paying $15.00 to park your car for two months in Atlanta is technically unrealistic — to have a friend move your car around from one parking lot to another during those two months could cost $15.00 in fuel alone — but you can also consider alternative airport parking services such as:

      https://www.way.com/parking/Atlanta/GA/airport/
      https://www.airportparkingreservations.com/off_airport_parking_atl
      https://www.airportparkinginc.com
      https://www.cheapairportparking.org/atl

      Typically, these services contract hotels with spare parking to sell the space at a fraction of what traditional airport parking will cost.

      Finally, you can try to create your own deal — although there is no guarantee: are you a member of a frequent guest loyalty program with elite level status? If so, try contacting a hotel with shuttle service to the airport and see what they will charge you to park your car for two months.

      I hope this information helps you, Samar Misra — but your best option is what you originally wanted to do, in my opinion.

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